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Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector: Perceived as ‘King in all but name’? The Pleasures and Pitfalls of Widening the Evidence Base in History by Alexandra Owen

This article focuses on the nature of historical evidence, that is evidence which might be useful to a
historian, in an increasingly interdisciplinary world, in relation to an argument on a question of historical importance. In this case, that question is to what extent Cromwell’s contemporaries perceived him to be, in his role as Lord Protector, 1653-1658, ‘King in all but name’? This provides the context for debate: the aim is to investigate the issues which may arise as historians increasingly widen the scope of historical evidence to include items which have previously been considered the purview of other academic disciplines. The article thus tackles issues around methodology and historiography, and in particular it considers whether historians can address such evidence without an understanding of the way it would be addressed by those in a different academic sphere. This is done through a comparison of a pamphlet written in the form of a dialogue between the ghosts of King Charles I and Oliver Cromwell (what might be thought of as a straightforward piece of historical evidence) and a poetic elegy on the death of Oliver Cromwell by John Dryden (more usually examined through the lens of English Literature). It concludes that despite the difficulties of analysing and evaluating such a poem in the light of literary criticism, the poem does have as much value to the historian as the straightforward pamphlet and should not be ignored.

Date created: 
Wednesday, April 12, 2023
Attribution for this resource:
Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector: Perceived as ‘King in all but name’? The Pleasures and Pitfalls of Widening the Evidence Base in History by Alexandra Owen, All rights reserved.
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